Subject: Wanderlust 6 - Ironwood, Michigan
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 1997 22:51:48 -0700
Wanderlust 6 - Ironwood, Michigan
On the road to Lake Woebegone
The ride is the reason. The ride is the reason to travel, but is that all there is to 'travel'? No, there are many sidelines, rest stops, and interactions that make travel a trip. Taking a trip becomes at once an adventure and a new routine. We are generally creatures of habit, yet we seek the different. Trips, then become habitually different events every day, and that is the lure.
"I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference
between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel
- Hilaire Belloc, English Writer (1870-1953)
So today's report is like all the others. About 'differences' that are new to some and familiar to others. Take regional "hellos" for example. Back in Nevada, everyone who didn't live there was passing through. The common hello is 'Where ya headed?' Destination locations, like Florida, ask 'Where ya from?' In the farm country, like where I was in Iowa, it is 'How's the weather for ya?' And in Minnesota, it is (in my best Frances McDermond imitation) 'So-o-o, ya come for the fishing, then?'
Minnesotans are so loony for walleyes they buzz on about them like mosquitos when they aren't actually fishing. There! I managed to get all three Minnesota icons in one sentence. The loon is the official state image, the walleye is the official state holy grail. And the mosquito is the state (attack) bird. If you don't like fishing, you are out of place in Minnesota. I, by the way, am out of Minnesota. In my opinion, fishing is the least efficient way to waste time ever invented.
But I respect their right to be different as they see fit. Up to a point, that is. And that point was the sign at the Muskie Snack Bar and Bait Shop: Jumbo Leeches! ... I am really not sure and I don't want to know which side of the shop was offering.
Signs in rural Minnesota have a clipped efficiency about them. Few words are wasted, like one I saw near Sandstone for "Litter control on this portion of highway by: Federal Prison Retirees". Retirees? That's not what they called it when my Uncle Joe got out. :) On the other hand, conservatism can be overdone. Billboard ads are noticeably chaste. I saw one for a home hotspa with a woman reclined. All you could see was her smiling face and a shoulder, but that shoulder was over prominent with a painted very wide halter strap. Wouldn't want to think she was ...
Some terrain observations. The trees are decidedly deciduous now. They've stopped clustering around houses and now take any space not otherwise occupied. Looks natural enough. There is a surprising amount of granite and quarries in the center of the state. It makes me wonder where the rest of the mountain went. Although there's not much corn in the northern half of the state, Minnesota has thrown in with the corn belt ethanol faction.
The unleaded midrange (89 r+m octane) always has 10% ethanol, which I always avoid. Although a K75 will happily drink anything from 85 Mexican to 100 racing fuel, it does not like ethanol (and I believe it is not healthy for the fuel rails and tubes). I accidentally put just under a gallon in my tank today (because the pump hoses were crossed and I didn't notice). After filling the rest with premium, I was curious to see if it made a mpg difference. The FuelPlus said yes. Mpg dropped from 48 to 43. So I 'ran the piss out' of the K75 using only up to 4th gear for 100 miles. The next tank was 92 premium, and FuelPlus showed 49 mpg.
Earlier in the day, for a quick rest stop to stretch and to refold the map, I pulled up next to a park near a lake. The father of the family having a picnic was curious and came over to see the bike. He asked some typical questions. What kind. How many cc's. How far can it go. And some surprising ones. Why is it so quiet? (Because it has a muffler. Oh.) If the engine is 'flopped' on its side, how does the gas get in? (Fuel injection. Oh.) So I regaled him with the fine features of a touring BMW - and when I mentioned the heated hand grips, he asked Why? I said for winter riding. In a flat monotone he asked "Why would you ride in the winter?" and a look of honest perplexity came across him, as though I just said 'so you can eat sand'. It thunderously occurred to me that winter in Minnesota is 'different', but occasionally I am fast enough to recover ... and I said "for those days when the roads are clear - just think of it as a snowmobile with wheels!" Oh. He liked that.
After following a swooping arc from the middle of the state, route 23 joins the Interstate for 9 miles, then splits off again. What a painful difference the Interstate is. Even though I was NOT going any faster (65 on both roads), riding I35 seemed louder, more buffeting, and more exposed. Getting off on SR23 again, I really appreciated the 'old road'. The two parallel each other only in direction. The old road goes through forests, fields, and a couple of swamps. I35 goes to Duluth. The old road passes through towns so relaxed they don't even bother with speed zones. I35 passes exits. The old road has no traffic at all, and because it follows the contour of the land there are 1) curves, 2) rises/dips, 3) bumps. It was lovely for 45 miles. It really should be marked scenic. We should seek the old roads when we travel for ourselves.
My intent was to visit the Aerostich factory in Duluth. Arriving around 2:30, I hoped they wouldn't be closing early for the weekend. Turns out the showroom is open until 8 pm most days. This is a fantastic place. Visit it if you can. The showroom is an alcove off the factory floor - and if they don't have what you want on display they will wander the factory to find it! 'Stiches of every imaginable color, plus all the goodies in the catalog. (For the non-moto readers, an Aerostich is a full body riding suit made of high-abrasion-resistant goretex, designed specifically for motorcycle use. Expensive and worth it.) DARIEN JACKET wearers, TAKE NOTE: I picked up a comment from one of the workers which I hadn't heard before: 'later this year' Aero is going to make an electric insert for the Darien.
This was my first visit to Duluth, and I must say I am impressed. Built from the lake shore up the ridge of a palisade, it has the appearance of terraced habitation. The downtown has a recently refurbished look and a feel of vibrancy. Nice place (in summer:).
Finally, and not surprisingly, the largest feedback so far has been about my observation of Lesbo-Bovo. Thank you one and all. Some of you folks need to ride more and watch cows less ...
FuelPlus statistics: 288 miles, 6:16 engine run, 46 mph average
Sam Lepore, San Francisco, 1988 R100RT and 1995 K75RTA